One of the many unknown consequences of the pandemic has been the tectonic shift to our daily routines. Life is not normal whatsoever.
Since we are not doing whatever we normally do, our patterns and routines have been changed. In some cases, forever.
After a very long time, you go to grab your camera to snap a picture of the flowers starting to bloom, or the buds bursting to life on the Japanese Maple, or maybe just a picture of your dog lying upside-down in a beam of radiant sunshine.
Unfortunately, the camera is not working, the batteries are dead. It is so very frustrating.
As a result of the pandemic, none of us are using our cameras, cars, power tools, lawn care equipment, and other powered technology in the same ways. Most often, these devices are battery operated. Since this technology is largely sitting idle and unused, the built-in batteries are deteriorating. In some cases, in a very damaging way that renders our devices obsolete and heads them towards the recycling bin.
It is not just rechargeable batteries that are a concern. Many devices make use of replaceable alkaline batteries that are not rechargeable. If left in your devices for a prolonged period they will eventually leak and release damaging chemicals into your camera, tool, or gadget.
Do you have those rechargeable batteries? Do you want to know how to get the most out of them? How do you prolong the useful lifespan of your rechargeable batteries, specifically nickel metal hydride (NiMH). One example of a rechargeable battery with NiMH technology is Energizer rechargeable batteries.
Some properties about NiMH batteries first:
- NiMH has high self-discharge rate and loses about 20 percent of its capacity within the first 24 hours, and 10 percent per month thereafter. (Some brands claim that their batteries can slow down this self-discharge rate)
- Low internal resistance (as compared to normal alkaline batteries). This makes them suitable for high current drain applications.
So, what do you do?
1) Once every few months, discharge the NiMH battery fully and recharge them again.
Reason: This will prevent the battery from forming crystals in the area that has not been discharged. Crystal formation in battery = a very bad thing!
What should you do: Take your NiMH batteries out for an exercise once every few months. They need to exercise to keep fit.
2) Use them!
Reason: If you leave them alone for a long time, crystals will form in the battery. The crystals will impede the battery’s ability to retain charge.
What should you do: Refrain from leaving the batteries unattended for long periods of time. The loss of capacity due to crystal formation may be permanent.
Note: To break up the crystals in the batteries, discharge and charge the batteries a few times. (Try at your own risk. Stop charging if the batteries become unbearably hot to the touch.)
3) Refrain from using ultra fast chargers
Ultra fast chargers = those chargers that offer a 1 hour charge. Normally, ultra fast chargers only charge batteries to 70% charge level. They are unable to bring the batteries to 100% charge level as the process takes a long time.
Reason: Normal chargers apply a trickle charge after the initial charge to 100%. It is this trickle charge that ultra fast chargers lack. Hence, ultra fast chargers will damage your batteries. (Even though the manufacturers will not tell you this piece of information)
What should you do: Use a normal smart charger to charge your batteries. If you care about convenience, then just use the fast chargers.
4) Do not charge at high or low temperatures
Charging at room temperature (15 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius) is the best.
5) It is not necessary to discharge the battery fully before charging them
If you do so, you are exposing your batteries to undue stresses which will affect their performance.
6) Do not charge batteries of different charge level in the same charger
Reason: More charge will flow into the weak battery, causing the weak batteries to become hot. This may cause the battery to explode if the pressure inside the battery reaches critical levels.
What should you do: Only place NiMH batteries of approximately the same charge level into a NiMH charger. It is also advisable that you only charge the same brand of rechargeable batteries in the same charger.
Note: You can charge different brands of rechargeable batteries with a single charger. (Meaning: You can charge Sanyo rechargeable batteries with Energizer smart charger). BUT, you have to ensure that the rechargeable batteries and charger are of the “same type”. (NiMH batteries with NiMH charger, NiCd batteries with NiCd charger.)
7) Storage: If you have to store them, store them at a cool place with a moderate level of charge. (~40%)
Reason: Performance degrade whenever they are stored at elevated temperature.
If you follow the most basic rules of thumb – do not go all the way from full to empty if you can avoid it and minimize the exposure to heat as best you can – you will be fine. It is easy to obsess over battery care, to let charging superstitions metastasize into obsessive ritual. But just remember two things:
- Your gadgets and their batteries are designed to keep you from ruining them. Lithium-ion batteries today are better, smarter, and more resilient than the nickel-metal hydrides of yesteryear.
- Your batteries are going to die. No amount of obsessive care will save you from having to deal with a less capable battery a few years from now.
Invariably, we are all destined for the annoying endgame that comes when a battery degrades, and you are either tethered to a charger, buying a replacement battery, or buying a new gadget altogether. We have all been there before, and we will be there again. So long as you follow the most basic of guidelines, you can maximize your distance from here to there.
When the time comes to discard old batteries, devices, tools, gadgets, or other powered equipment, please do so responsibly and ethically recycle technology safely. Protect our environment!
Limer, E. (2015). 8 Essential Tips To Keep Your Phone’s Battery Healthy. Popular Mechanics, Hearst Magazine Media, Inc. Retrieved on May 19, 2020 from, https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/a15731/best-way-to-keep-li-ion-batteries-charged/
Mini Physics. (2016). 7 Tips To Take Better Care Of Your Rechargeable Batteries. Mini Physics. Retrieved on May 19, 2020 from, https://www.miniphysics.com/7-tips-to-take-better-care-of-your.html
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies.
He is a business and technology consultant. He offers his services on a contracting basis. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).
He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 15 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.